Like flies to wanton boys are we to the Gods; they but kill us for their sport.
- King Lear, Act III, Scene 1 -
These words are spoken by Gloucester who has been betrayed by his bastard son, Edmund, and had his eyes gouged out by Regan’s husband, Cornwall. He is, quite understandably, in the throes of a deep depression.
Gloucester was once a respected member of King Lear’s Court – proud, commanding and right royal. He, like Lear, suddenly and without warning, is stripped of all of his titles and worldly trappings and reduced, as Lear says, to “the thing itself.”
When Gloucester was in the Gods’ favor he could never have uttered these words, but now that he has been made to “feel what wretches feel” he is capable, for the first time in his life, of empathizing with the less fortunate.
Like Lear, Gloucester loses everything and in the process gains his humanity.